Wallace Groate was by no one’s estimation gubernatorial material. Governors are unapologetically larger than reality, seven-foot of man crammed into six feet of iron, with a football neck and very often a ruddy complexion*, possibly caused by the strain of their own gravity.
Wallace Groate was none of these, except perhaps prone to rubicose moments, but this he owed more to the snifter of sherry than any sanguine characteristics. Billed “The Georgia Duck” by a curt opinions editor, his bald, reflective head and wide, protuberant rhino-mastal region worked in collusion against him with a bobbing Adam’s apple and teardrop-shaped body.
Nor was his name of any particular inspiration to voters. An early poll showed “Wallace” to connote a flimsy, shiny plastic, while his surname proved even less assistive, blooming visions of a scabrous disease that lasted a week and ended only with the itchy sloughing of several filmy, dime-sized plates of skin. The best the Groate team could summon was the completely unconfident “Vote Groate,” which even spin magnate D.R. Hessing ceded would be hard put to promote breakfast cereals, let alone the non-ruddy duck of Georgia.
When Groate spoke, however, the landscape changed in violent shockwaves. Mountains would crumble before the voice of Wallace Groate. Seas would calcify and split, clouds would boil into something less than gas, and old maids would go weak in the knees the way they hadn’t since the repeal of the straw tariff unloosed the morality of that land for five years the entire state now opts to forget.
Opponent Phillip Charles Barlowe, after a particularly devastating debate, described Groate in shuddering terms as “the only man in Creation who could interrupt God,’ not that The Georgia Duck would ever presume. A staunch churchgoer and bully of his enemies, Groate trembled in the appropriate Christian way before the wrath of the Almighty. During the 1934 convention, Groate prefaced his acceptance of the candidacy by a chorus of “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.” Republicans responded with a failed attempt to raise an equally rousing harmony, “My Country ’Tis of Thee.”
*Or, if women, diminuitive of height, but possessed of an equally ferocious inner daemon.